Stratford senior Jack Ryan returned from a football injury to lead the Red Devils boys basketball team to the state tournament. (Photo by John Nash)

ON THE SIDELINES: After football injury, Ryan found a way to get back on the court

STRATFORD—It was a cool, fall night at Penders Field and Stratford quarterback Jack Ryan, facing heavy pressure from the defense, rolled out to his right looking for options.

There were none.

Instead, behind him, a Brookfield defender was chasing him down and dove to make the tackle.

Under the weight of the collision, Ryan’s ankle buckled crudely beneath him.

After a football career of always bouncing back up after getting knocked down, this time Ryan stayed on the turf.

Just like that two broken bones in his right foot had ended his football career and threatened his senior season as a basketball player, as well.

“I was thinking, yeah, if basketball was done, too, then my high school sports career was done,” Ryan said. “I was at a loss for words.”

Ryan didn’t just return for his final basketball season, but the heady point guard led the Red Devils to the No. 3 seed for the SWC tournament and to the CIAC Division III tournament, as well.

But it wasn’t easy. When the season started, he was still sidelined and came along slowly in order to get ready for the season-opener.

Jack Ryan (2) spent the fall as quarterback for the Stratford football team, until a foot injury ended his season and threatened his basketball campaign, as well. (John Nash Photo courtesy of Hearst Connecticut Media)

“I think it was obviously a setback for him and it was frustrating from a mental standpoint,” Stratford coach Tim Swaller said. “It took some time. It’s a process. Once he got through it, he back to an even keel. He was upbeat and positive. He had a good approach on how to handle himself.”

He finally reached 100 percent, and in his team’s final regular season game at New Milford, Ryan netted the 1,000th point of his career.

“It’s definitely took a while, but I got there,” Ryan said. “It means a lot. It’s cool to have my name mentioned with all those other people (who scored 1,000 points). It’s very cool.”

Ryan is one of five key seniors on the Stratford roster, a group that has grown up playing together.

“I wouldn’t trade playing with brothers for anything,” he said.

Being sidelined when the season was tough for him.

“I was out for a while. I couldn’t do anything,” Ryan said. “I was laying in my bed playing Fortnight. I was out of shape.”

After Tuesday’s opening round of the Division III tourney, there is no doubt Ryan is at the top of his game.

He netted 26 points in Stratford’s 65-51 win over Plainfield and will now lead the Red Devils into a second-round showdown at fifth-seeded Torrington on Thursday.

“Jack has been great for us for three years,” Swaller said. “He controls everything for us. He gets us in motion, gets guys going. It’s very valuable to what we’re doing.”

From here on out, the Red Devils hope Ryan and his classmates can lead them deep into the postseason.

(On the Sidelines is a regular feature column written by Stratford Sports Scene editor John Nash)

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